impact wood blocksEnabling institutions to record the impact of their academic research, while empowering researchers to demonstrate the evidence of these impacts, has always been a challenge. Evidence of impact is often laborious to find, collect and store, and often kept in disparate systems across an institution.

That’s why Symplectic have been working hard over the last twelve months in order to solve this problem in their latest release of Elements (version 4.17). This week the team are thrilled to have launched their Impact Module – an easy method for not only capturing evidence of impact but, a tool to help write a narrative that explains the relevance and context of this evidence.

In the module, recording of impact is based on qualitative, rather than quantitative, methods – it is designed so that researchers can demonstrate evidence not with metrics, but with narratives. As well as narratives – brief or extensive – the module captures evidence such as documents and weblinks. The key benefit is that evidence can be built over time, rather than looking back and writing retrospectively. With the Impact Module, everything is kept in one place and is easy to access. This mitigates problems in future reporting by allowing data to be extracted from a single, comprehensive system to ensure consistency.

Why Build An Impact Module? 

Institutions across the UK, Australia and other parts of the world are now looking at how research impact can be planned for, recorded and monitored proactively – some even appointing Impact Officers to support and monitor the process.

For example, the UK government has  placed increasing emphasis on the need for evidence of economic and social returns from its investment in research. For the 2014 REF (Research Excellence Framework), UK higher education institutions submitted 6,975 impact case studies detailing the impact of their research on wider society. And in the last few days, the Australian Research Council announced that they will soon introduce, for the first time, a national impact and engagement assessment which will run as a companion exercise to the current Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) assessment. In 2014, the NIH medical research agency introduced a new version of their Biosketch to “redirect the focus of reviewers and the scientific community more generally from widely-questioned metrics” to a more qualitative outline of their work.

We expect this trend to continue in the coming years as the assessments of governments and funding bodies around the world evolve to consider the wider effects of the research that they fund.

To learn more about how the module works, you can read Symplectic’s blog announcement. With an additional license, the Impact Module is on offer to any institution using Elements.